There was a great question on Twitter from Mark Britz the other day:
L&D – want to be seen as a separate function of your business? Keep referring to ppl as attendees & learners. Everyone else says employee
Why do we use the word learner? Is it to demonstrate our expertise? I had a similar conversation this week when someone I work with talked about ‘service users’ rather than people. Have a look at the list below with my tongue in cheek interpretations of how your workplace learning function may be perceived…
Good luck in your election. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to complete our 7 mandatory elearning modules and 3 classroom sessions. We’ll then give you a certificate to confirm your award.
Isn’t that a nice word…it sets an expectation that people will have to do something. It’s a levelling word too – we’re not any better than you but we’re setting an expectation that you need to contribute. And you will contribute – there’ll be lots of exercises.
Calling you an attendee means it’s nice to know you at least turned up. We can’t comment on how attendant you were during the session, but we can count the fact you were there to add data to our learning stats.
We sell learning and want you to feel that you are receiving elements of service from our product. So you’ll get lots of product; look out for the quality of slides, handouts, and refreshments. You’re a customer…you deserve it.
As a delegate we’re pleased you’re here, really pleased since we can delegate the ownership of the learning back to you. We’re also handing back to you the responsibility to take this back to the workplace and do something different. Most importantly, we’re delegating to you, the delegate, the accountability if the learning event doesn’t work.
Inextricably linked with classrooms, students are welcome to come to ‘our’ space to learn. The inference is you’ll study, so again, we absolve responsibility if you don’t learn. It also throws up the whole education thesaurus of curricula, tutor and pedagogy which makes us sound clever and affirms the teacher-pupil relationship that creates our command and control mentality.
Which term do you use? What do you call the people you offer support to? Are they learners in your world, or are you something in theirs?
Comments, as always, more than welcome.